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The Macomb Area Conference goes through realignment changes; four programs search for head coaches

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By Joe Cochran

  The Macomb Area Conference will have many new looks next season, within the divisions and on the sidelines.

  Each division from the MAC Red to the Bronze division will have at least one team change and a minimum of four teams will have a new head coach.

   The realignment has been completed a little earlier than usual, but not without some surprises, issues and a few disagreements.

   This past season was a good one for the MAC with Romeo winning the Division 1 Championship. Romeo will move from the White Division up to the Red, a decision that was made before its playoff run. Romeo replaces Macomb L’Anse Creuse North.

   The division is always one of toughest in the state and it is expected to be even more competitive in 2016.

   Realignment is done bi-annually. Romeo joins Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, Macomb Dakota, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Utica Eisenhower and Warren Mott.

  Romeo athletic director Gregory Bynaert said his school has embraced the move up and was not surprised by the move.

  "We have already put up a sign in the locker room that reads ‘Ready For The Red’,” he said. “We kind of saw (the move) coming. We have had a lot of success and if someone was moving up it was going to us."

   Romeo and Mott are at the bottom of the division in terms of enrollment. The decision on the new alignment within the White also included a discussion on the status of Utica Ford and Mott. It was decided Ford would stay with Mott remaining in the Red.

   Mott coach Tom Milanov said he would accept either decision.

  "We want to play a good schedule," Milanov said. “To be one of the best you have to play some of the best. The Red is a great division and we look forward to the challenge once again.”

   Mott has played well recently. It made the playoffs the last two seasons, which included a victory over Dakota.

   Most agree, despite Ford having a greater enrollment, that the right move was made keeping Ford in the White.

   Ford will also have a new coach, perhaps following Romeo’s lead in hiring co-head coaches. Todd Winters resigned as Ford’s coach following this past season.

   Utica, a member of the White, will have a new head coach as Tony Smith also resigned as head coach.

   New Baltimore Anchor Bay appealed to drop down to the Blue Division from the White but that was denied unanimously.

   Fraser administrators had hoped for another two years in the Blue but the Ramblers were moved up to the White after a 3-6 season.

   Enrollment makes up for about 70 percent of the criteria for realignment. Wins and losses count but not nearly as much, and Fraser's enrollment is close to 1,600. Jim Skladanowski just completed his first year as the Fraser head coach said he would have liked to have more time to build his program before moving up but added that once they knew for sure his players have already accepted the challenge to compete at a higher level.

  After a slow start Fraser played well the last half of the season.

 Sterling Heights moves up to the Blue Division after sharing the Gold Division title this past season. Coach Brent Widdows did not agree with the decision at first. After struggling for years Widdows turned the program around this past season. The Stallions were 1-8 in 2014.

  Sterling Heights appealed the decision but it was defeated, 27-9.

  Widdows would like to see the MAC go to four divisions of seven teams and one of eight. There has been some discussion before by the athletic directors but has always been rejected. The MAC will continue to consist of six divisions of six teams.

  Again much was based on enrollment and Sterling Heights has approximately 1,600 students.

   Widdows did add one other point. Of all the Warren Consolidated Schools (Warren Cousino, Mott and Sterling Heights) only Sterling Heights has one feeder school. Cousino and Mott each have two.

   Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse has struggled the last few years and it has also began a search for a new coach as Don Roda resigned.

  The Gold Division, which is always highly competitive, will have some changes.    

  St. Clair Shores Lake Shore moves to the Gold from the Silver and St. Clair Shores Lakeview drops from the Blue to the Silver Division.

  Lake Shore’s move up suits coach Tom Iwanicki just fine.

   “Some Silver teams don't have freshmen teams,” Iwanicki said. “And we want them to play nine games as well. That it's good for the program and although it's long trips up to places like Marine City and St. Clair it's best for our program."

  The Gold will be a major step up for Lake Shore.

  Marine City and St. Clair both won their appeal to stay in the Gold. Those programs are both solid.

   The Silver and Bronze divisions will have two teams trading places. Clinton Township Clintondale moves from the Silver to the Bronze and, somewhat surprisingly, Clawson moved from the Bronze to the Silver. Clawson coach Jim Sparks has had a lot of success and seemed taken back by the move. Clawson’s enrollment is about the same as that of Clintondale.

 The Dragons also have had success.

  "As a matter of fact Clintondale has beat us the last couple times," Sparks said.

  Without question it's a step up for Clawson.

  Another factor involved was the fact that Clintondale's enrollment has dropped to about 400.

   Madison Heights Madison is searching for a new coach as Drake Wilkins has stepped down.

  Pat Threet, who returned to Lakeview as coach last season, said the athletic directors usually get the realignment right. Nevertheless the Huskies competed in the Blue, a fact that doesn’t sit well with Threet.

  "Lakeview should have been playing the in Gold,” he said. “So even though it comes across as dropping two divisions we should already have been in the Gold so really it's like only going down one division. It's the best system we have and enrollment is important."
  Lakeview has nearly 1,400 students and will compete in the Silver with rival St. Clair Shores South Lake.  All three Shores teams meet in 2016.

The wildcard in all this is Bronze Division team Mt. Clemens, which forfeited once early and then the last three games including homecoming. Two questions remain; will Mount Clemens field a football team and will the school still be in existence in the near future.

  The bottom line in the MAC is, eight teams changed divisions, four programs are in search of a head coach teams and then there’s the uncertainty surrounding Mount Clemens.